ALBANY — Andy Wulf’s joy was palpable — and infectious — Friday, as he talked about the Albany Museum of Art’s reopening after a pandemic-required three-month-plus closure.
“Today, the unlocking of those doors is symbolic of this institution’s return to relevance,” Wulf said. “This is another baby step in what will be a much longer journey. It is just so heartening to open those doors and open up to the world.”
Wulf and the museum’s staff had worked for days leading up to Friday’s baby step to prepare for the reopening of the museum’s bricks-and-mortar space after weeks of presenting online programs that kept the public engaged. They held a weeklong members-only preview before opening the facility to the public.
“That’s one of the things that I’m proud of, that this motivated team we have here went lean and mean and really worked hard to create online programming that was engaging to the public,” Wulf, who has been director of the museum for nine months, said. “They really fell in love with that aspect, so much so that, even though the public can now visit the museum in person, they will still be able to access our programs digitally. I think that’s going to remain a priority for some people who aren’t quite ready to get out in the public quite yet.”
Joe and Audrey Brienza of Albany were the first non-student campers to show up for Friday’s reopening.
“We heard about the museum opening and decided to come out and take a look,” Joe Brienza said. “Everything’s been closed for so long, we decided to come check things out. It feels good to get out and do something again.”
While the grown-ups were checking out the exhibitions on display in the museum’s gallery, a group of on-site art campers were busy designing products to sell at the end of their camp. Landon Sharpe and Henry “Darth Mal” Rutledge, both 9, were busy designing and creating comics, posters and trading cards for prospective customers.
Megan Lisenby, who teaches art at Lee County High School, said the summer gig with the youngsters had been a blast.
“They asked me if I was interested in coming in to head up one of the summer art camps; I had done a couple online, so I said sure,” Lizenby said. “After being in classrooms with high school students, being with these guys has been a blast.”
Wulf said staff would continue the “unsexy part, like sorting the detritus out” of the process of moving the museum to its planned new home on West Broad Avenue in downtown Albany.
“That’s the first step; then we begin the design phase,” the museum director said before showing off enlarged renderings of the proposed new facility. “It is immeasurably cool — off the charts cool — to have this opportunity to see this project take shape from the ground up. Our staff is so jazzed to continue down that path, as are our board, our trustees and our stakeholders.
“I look at this as a rare opportunity as we chip away at this process of hopefully getting downtown sooner rather than later. We’re, realistically, still three to five years away, but that gives us the opportunity to start building those relationships in the community that will be such a vital part of this process.”
Wulf said the goal of enhancing the museum’s diversity is crucial as the facility looks to move downtown.
“We can’t rest on any laurels,” he said. “We will constantly be working to create new programs that are relevant to this community, reaching out to our schools, churches and even taking our programs out into the community when it’s safe to do so. I’ve seen that done in Boston, seen programs aimed at 23 Native American tribes and group’s that clung to elements of their Mexican heritage in New Mexico.
“There are so many ideas, things we want to do. I think it was Lincoln who called America a ‘great unfinished experiment.’ That’s the way I see Albany, as a great, wide-open experiment. Certainly this museum is, and I look forward to exploring this experiment further.”